West Life photo

Deborah Cipriani's skunk Gidget has been crowned the queen multiple times.

NORTH RIDGEVILLE - It is billed as the “The largest skunk convention in the world.” It is true? Maybe. But what is certain is that skunk lovers will gather Saturday in South Central Park for a day of games, raffles, food, music and … dressed-up skunks.

The 18th Annual Skunkfest will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park, 7565 Avon Belden Road. The event benefits Skunk Haven, a nonprofit shelter and educational center in North Ridgeville. What started as a backyard picnic by a skunk enthusiast and rescuer attracts more than 1,000 people a year, many from other states and countries.

Visitors to the de-scented event will learn about the many varieties of skunks, including those in shades of apricot, brown and albino. Games will include a "best detective competition" where the fastest skunk to find a bag of vegetables wins.

And, of course, there will be the yearly costume contest and the crowning of the Skunk Fest 2019 king, queen, prince and princess.

“We want people to know that skunks aren’t as bad as they often want to think,” said Skunk Haven Vice President Renee Pearlstein, who has seven pet skunks. “It’s nice to see people come to the event and actually love on the skunks.”

About 80 skunks are expected to attend, Pearlstein said. The entry fee at the door of the Red Roof Inn, 29595 Clemens Road in Westlake, is $10 for one skunk entering a contest and $5 for each additional skunk.

Skunk Haven accepts donations of cash, blankets and paper towels. For more information, visit or call 614-266-6800.

Ohio allows people to have “domesticated” skunks as pets, but it is illegal to take a skunk from the wild and keep it.

Skunk Haven was founded by North Ridgeville resident Deb Cipriani after she needed help with her pet skunk. Cipriani realized that not too many veterinarians handled skunks, so she started organizing a group of people who were familiar with the animal of North American origin.

Pearlstein, who acquired her first skunk from a breeder who lived close to her, became involved with Skunk Haven under similar circumstances,

“The event is unusual, but it is a lot of fun,” Pearlstein said. “People will be carrying skunks, pushing them in strollers or walking them on leashes. There will be more than just the black and white skunks there — skunks of many different colors.”

Skunks even have fans, including Donny Osmond — Yes, the pop music teenage idol from the 1970s.

He is among many who know that when enjoying these animals, it is more than just “Puppy Love.”

Contact this reporter at, or 440-871-5797.

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